Transcript: Napolitano talks DACA, sexual harassment and tuition

Aslesha Kumar/File

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Daily Californian’s Editorial Board sat down with UC President Janet Napolitano on Wednesday to hear from her on relevant campus and UC issues.

Editorial Board: What are some recent priorities you want to discuss?

Janet Napolitano: It’s been a busy year already. There have been three issues that I’ve been spending a lot of time on. One is the whole free speech issue, which has really been omnipresent at Berkeley. The second is DACA and the administration’s decision to rescind DACA. And the third is Title IX.

On Title IX — from the university’s perspective, we’ve redone our framework, we have our standards, our burden of proof. In some instances, we have state law like the affirmative consent law that comes into play, so we are going to continue doing what we have been doing to continue to improve the investigation, adjudication and sanctions in Title IX-related cases, whether they involve students or faculty or staff.

That’s something that we’re watching very carefully, and if there’s actually a formal notice by which the U.S. Department of Education attempts to rewrite the rules on Title IX, we would anticipate filing comments on behalf of the university and putting our say in. I would say, there are always issues at the university, but those three have been somewhat dominant this fall semester.

EB: We are wondering what your thoughts are regarding what it means to have a leader, UC Regent Norman Pattiz, who is known to have sexually harassed someone, and what it means for keeping regents accountable, considering he was at the meeting where regents’ ethical conduct and accountability was discussed?

JN: I think that the regents govern the regents and they did adopt a policy that requires all regents to take the training on sexual harassment, sexual assault. They did somewhat broaden their policy about behavior that occurs outside the regent context, and I think as far as Regent Pattiz is concerned, they believe that matter to be closed.

EB: In terms of the mishandling of sexual harassment cases at UC Berkeley, at what point do UC officials deem it necessary to step in? How autonomous should campuses be when dealing with these cases?

JN: I think that the campuses should by and large be autonomous, but that we should have systemwide standards — for example, standards for training, standards for timelines on how long investigations should take, standards for how complainants and respondents are kept apprised of what’s going on. We should have a way of reviewing or looking at sanctions to see that they’re somewhat consistent among the campuses and so it’s autonomous within a unified framework. For example, we just hired our first systemwide Title IX coordinator — it’s the first time the university’s ever had one systemwide to work on all those issues: the training, the investigation, adjudication, sanctions, to see that A, the campuses are meeting the standards, and B, that we have some consistency amongst our own.

EB: Could you elaborate on why you decided to foot the bill for the Ben Shapiro event’s security and the process behind that?

JN: Right — so my thought process was that the campus was making the right decisions. In other words, even though the campus and its leadership disagreed vehemently with the views of the speaker, they were still views that were entitled to First Amendment protection, they were speech. But it seemed that the expenses that were being borne by the campus were exceptional. Normally, campuses pay for their own security expenses — we don’t pay for that as the Office of the President.

But there’s always room for exceptions to the general rule, and the combination of Shapiro plus Milo (Yiannopoulos) and “Free Speech Week” seemed to me to be a set of exceptional circumstances where we could — the Office of the President should — pitch in and help. I made the decision that we would use some of the money from the president’s endowment fund in order to split the cost with Berkeley. We haven’t confronted this same situation at any of our other campuses, again. It was exceptional, but it seemed to me the right thing to do, and to show support for how I thought the campus administration was addressing the issues.

EB: There seems to be a growing number of “alt-right” speakers on campus, especially at UC Berkeley. Is this a precedent that you’re setting, where if there are high security costs in the future, you’ll help foot the bill again?

JN: That’s why I’m careful to say this is exceptional and I think each instance will have to be evaluated on its own facts. I do think that it might be cliché to say it at this point, but freedom of speech is not free in this circumstance, and it costs money to stand up for that value. So the campus was really between a rock and a hard place because of anticipated problems on the security side.

Do you prevent a speaker from speaking, or alternatively, you could choose not to pay for the extra security and take the risk that everything will be peaceful and hunky-dory. But that wouldn’t be smart, either, given what happened with Milo last February and what happened in Charlottesville this summer. To boil it down to its essence, the campus chose to permit the speakers and absorb the security cost and the time and planning associated with that.

I do know that the chancellor is putting together a working group or a task force or something of that sort to look at all the campus policies regarding speakers on campus — how you reserve space, what you can be required to put forth as a deposit. Different spaces have different rules, and they do under the law, as well. You have public space like Sproul Plaza, you have classroom space, and you have things in between. Are there different rules that govern different types of space? Are the rules clear? Are they easy to follow, easy to execute, etc. All of our campuses are doing that, they’re all reviewing their rules for how they handle speakers.

EB: Christ said she regretted the effect the events had on those groups and that led her to a reevaluation of those policies. Because there was a little bit of conversation beforehand from communities saying that they would feel threatened if these “alt-right” groups came to campus — and I was wondering if you could have anticipated this beforehand — would you still have encouraged the school to go through with these events?

JN: I think when you talk about the cost of these events, you can talk about financial costs, but you can also talk about cost to campus climate and to groups who may be targeted or singled out by some of these speakers. And I think there, the appropriate thing to explore is what support could be offered to students in these targeted groups and make sure that support is available and students know about it. We can also help empower groups to bring alternative speakers to campus and put forth a different view. I like to say the answer on free speech is not to limit speech, but it’s more speech.

So maybe, you have an alternative speaker series — maybe you do more like the fireside chat, where you have in one place a broad spectrum of views, so the audience can judge for themselves who has the better side of different arguments. I think there are just a lot of different ways to make sure that there’s not an undue cost to campus climate when you have these controversial speakers, and that’s something I know the chancellor’s going to explore.

EB: What do you think the state audit on UC finances and resulting recommendations mean for the University of California’s autonomy from the state?

JN: Well, I think first of all, you know while we disagree — and I disagree strongly with the kind of written context of the report on the Office of the President — imagine my surprise when I found I was sitting on $175 million dollars. It’s just not accurate and reflected a lack of appreciation by state auditor on what programs flow through and go to the campuses. It’s not money we’re sitting on, or it’s money for multi-year projects, so the moneys already committed for a year or two. It’s not just free money that’s sitting around.

But most of the recommendations were what I would consider to be kind of good government recommendations: Present your budget in a different way, be more clear about actual spending as opposed to estimated spending, things of that sort. So to the extent they were at that level, they’re fine.

I must say I do get concerned when the auditor singles out particular initiatives at the university as open to question. For example, our initiative to be carbon-neutral by 2025. The Global Food Initiative, which has funded hundreds of food fellows and has supported everything from healthy campus initiatives to global research on food and food security, that supported food security spending on campuses.

There can be a slippery slope into the state auditor adjudicating which projects are worthwhile and which are not. And that’s something that really belongs in the purview of the Office of the President and the Board of Regents. So I think that relationship and that autonomy of the university is something we’re going to have to keep in our minds even as we implement the recommendations that we received.

EB: The UC has some conservative tuition increases in the pipeline: What does that means in term of the longer model for funding? Will state funding keep going down, and if we keep on this high fee high aid path, are there problems that you foresee?

JN: First, no final decision about tuition for 2018-19 has been set. As you know, the board does that. Several years ago, after a bit of a struggle with the governor, we agreed that the UC would hold tuition flat for what was, in the end, a total of six years. Then it could raise tuition, but the raise would be limited, roughly equivalent, to the rate of inflation. At the same time, the governor would increase the base budget of the university by 4 percent a year. So we’re going into the fourth year of that agreement.

I think that when there’s a new governor, we’ll try again to have some sort of multi-year agreement because it allows us to plan better, allows the governor to plan better and provides more stability in terms of what students can expect. If we follow the letter of that agreement, the board would be looking at another increase in the 2.5 percent range for 2018-19.

Ironically, it’s interesting, because of the way that financial aid works for in-state residents, with the combination of university funded financial aid and Cal grants, when tuition goes up for about 100,000 of our undergrads, they actually end up with more money that they can use for housing and food, and not just for tuition. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s the way the dollars work for students. So where this goes in the long term, I don’t know. All I can say is we’re finishing out Gov. Brown’s term, and we would expect the new governor to have a multi-year approach.

EB: Can you explain what the UC is doing going forward in regard to the move to end DACA?

JN: We did a couple of things. First is we really worked with our legal services center and our undocumented student services center to identify the DACA students who were eligible for renewal if they got their paperwork in by Oct. 5. We also helped to raise some private funds to help cover the enrollment fee, which is like $495.

At the same time, we are working with our congressional delegation and with congressional leadership advocating for a legislative fix, and as we know it was an alleged agreement made between the president and (U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York) and (Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California) to support legislation in exchange for putting DACA in statute, there’d be additional support for border security but not for a wall, and the president this week announced basically “no” — he wanted all of these other things: an increased number of (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents for interior reinforcement, funding for the wall, etc. So where any legislative agreement is, it’s hard to tell, but we’re still advocating for that.

But the third thing we did is we sued the administration. We filed suit in the federal court and we’re contending that the administration violated the administrative procedures act and the due process clause of the Constitution, and we’re seeking to enjoin or prevent the decision from going into effect. We anticipate that we’ll have an argument in court in early December and a decision by mid-December. I think that’s the schedule so that there’s time for whichever side loses to appeal before March 5, which is when the program terminates.

So, we did everything we could for students currently in the program, legislative and judicial — kind of a belt-and-suspenders approach. And in the meantime we’re trying to provide whatever support we can for our DACA students. We’ve got our legal services center, which started a couple years ago. Last year at this time they were handling 300 cases; now, they’re handling — I want to say — over 11,000 cases.

We are financially supporting the Undocumented Student Service centers. We’ve instructed campus police that they are not to act as surrogate immigration agents or participate in any joint activities with ICE and we’ve also instructed registrars and others that they’re not to turn over student records without a specific court order for that particular student. So we’re trying to do all we can, but recognize that these students are under tremendous stress right now because they’re in such limbo about their futures.

EB: We sometimes hear concerns from students specifically about the number of deportations during your time at the Department of Homeland Security, and I’m wondering how that’s affected how you deal with this DACA issue and how your interactions with undocumented communities in the UC have gone because of that.

JN: First of all, I did DACA. I was the secretary who conceived the program. The memoranda putting DACA into effect is not a presidential order, it is actually an order directed by me to the Department of Homeland Security. When we started it, we didn’t know how many students would apply: Would it be 5,000 or 50,000 or 500,000? Now, we know it’s close to 800,000.

With respect to deportation numbers under President Obama, we could get into the weeds about how we counted things differently, which made the numbers look artificially high — we stopped the practice of doing catch-and-release at the border and started doing actual deportations at the border, so some deportations were recent border-crossers. We did that so that in case they were repeated and captured again, they would be subject to a greater penalty, and so that made the deportation numbers go up.

Secondly, under the Bush administration, there had been a much larger appropriation to hire ICE agents, and by the time those ICE agents were hired and were on-boarded, it was the beginning of the Obama administration. With more ICE agents, you’re going to have more cases, so that also explains those higher numbers.

But at the same time, we stopped the process of doing workplace raids. We began instituting true priorities in terms of who could be deported, which was the first time in that agency that had been done, and as I mentioned, we did DACA

I’ll acknowledge when I started, there was a lot of reticence or suspicion on how I would act as university president, but I think my track record as the president is pretty clear, and I believe that undocumented students are part of our university community and we are here to educate them.

EB: As the person who conceived DACA, what are your personal thoughts on seeing it unravel?

JN: Oh, I was disappointed, and really had a sense of — call it outrage, if you would — and I thought the decision was wrong on the law, on the terms of good immigration policy and inconsistent with our values. That’s what was going through my head when I decided that we would take the somewhat unprecedented step of a former cabinet secretary suing her successor. I think that may be the first be the first time that’s ever happened. But that’s what the courts are there for, right — that’s what we’re calling on the court to do.

EB: What are the biggest impacts of the Trump administration on the UC system?

I could point to DACA, I could point to Title IX, I could point to the Trump budget, which slashes research funding and I could point to the lack of support in particular for anything having to do with science related to climate change. I could point to all of those things, but I think the biggest impact may be on elevating the sense of tensions between groups and fear by some groups.

There is a need for a community sense, the need for different groups to come together and work together, appreciate and respect each other. You can feel those tensions and those fears on college campuses, and at UC as well.

EB: Is there an update for the plan, announced in 2016, to add 14,000 beds across the UC by the year 2020?

JN: I don’t want to get into the weeds into what Berkeley has on the drawing boards, but I will say that the plan for the 14,000 beds is going really well. I think there’s a good chance we’ll exceed that number by 2020. We’ve had big projects approved at UC Santa Cruz and at UC Davis, for example. There are plans underway at Berkeley.

We are facilitating public-private partnerships. A common structure on how we do the deal is the university gives the land, (and) the developer builds the project and master-leases it back to the university for students. Then, at the end of 30 years, the whole property reverts back to university ownership. That’s proven to be a very workable concept, and so we’re moving forward as speedily as we can because we know the need is there. I know housing in Berkeley is very dear.

EB: Efforts under the plan are probably not going to be enough to address housing in Berkeley — the housing crisis is so bad. Is there a broader strategy that UCOP has in mind to address housing?

JN: Each campus has its own growth and housing plan. Where we come in is to help support doing the actual deal and providing some of the expertise for that. So, I know that Berkeley has been looking at several different types of options, and we’ll be right there behind them, supporting whatever it is that campus decides is best for it. So we don’t sit in Oakland and say, “Berkeley, you get 3,000, and UCLA you get one.” It’s not like that. It comes up from the campuses. But we’re going to be doing a lot of housing these next few years, no doubt.

EB: Chancellor Carol Christ has been in her role a number of months now, and there have been some mixed criticism on topics like “Free Speech Year.” What is your opinion of her performance so far as chancellor?

JN: I think she’s doing a terrific job. I think she has the respect of the faculty, and overall has the respect of the students. I think the fact that she’s from Berkeley — she’s of Berkeley — is very good. And like I said earlier, I thought she handled “Free Speech Week” about as well as you could handle a situation like that. I’d give her an “A”.

EB: What you think of former Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ tenure?

JN: I think that Chancellor Dirks did some really good things for Berkeley. He was really focused on Berkeley’s international footprint, and we are a global university — we like to think of ourselves that way. I think that there were some difficult issues that happened on his watch. But I think that his values were the right values, and he did his utmost to put them into place.

EB: Is there something that jumps out as you as a missed opportunity during Dirks’ tenure?

JN: I think the whole issue of sexual harassment was one. There were a lot of issues about it during his tenure. It was partially because of the issues at Berkeley that we are really looking at the issue as a system. What are we doing as a system and how are campuses handling these cases?

How do we make sure that we’ve got the right procedures — and that they’re fair, that we’re supportive of survivors, that things don’t take forever to get done, and that things are properly resourced. We are not done with that work. It’s ongoing work and I’m not sure that we’ll ever be able to say that yeah, we’re finished with this. But it did present an array of difficulties during his tenure.

EB: Is there something in particular that you want Christ to look at that Dirks didn’t?

JN: It’s not that he didn’t, but I think it’s become more clear — what Berkeley needs to do to get its financial house in order. And, again, that was an issue that had been evolving over time. The campus was just spending more money than it was taking in, and it needed to make some decisions about where it was going to invest, etc.

The Office of the President, we loaned the campus about $200 million to help it through. But it needed — and now has — a concrete plan for how it’s going to get its budget back in balance, and I think Carol has done a lot of work on that plan. It was actually started under Nick, and I’m very confident that over the next few years the budget ship will be righted. Will be righted? Is that a word? Will be back in balance.

EB: How does UC Berkeley’s big financial issues compare to other campuses?

JN: As in so many things, Berkeley is unique, and none of our other campuses have found themselves in this situation. But I meet quarterly with the Chancellor and the financial leadership team at Berkeley, and I’m confident that we’re moving in the right direction. They’re meeting their targets and doing so in a way that’s least disruptive to the academic experience that the students have. And I think that’s key, that we keep in mind the excellence of Berkeley, and where cuts are made, that they not impact the academic excellence of the place.

EB: For Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 9 we published content on the UC and the campus’s history with Native Americans. As you may know, UC campuses are the second-biggest houser of Native American remains and artifacts, and the repatriation process has been slow. We are wondering what your thoughts are on what UCOP has or can do, if anything, on that issue.

JN: It’s not something frankly that has been raised to my attention, but I would hope that if there were a claim for remains by indigenous peoples that the department of anthropology or whatever, whoever has them, would work it out in a way that is respectful and appreciative of the historical traditions involved, but no — you’re the first that’s actually asked me that question.

I just didn’t know, so thank you for raising that.

EB: What did you expect from the UC president job coming in, and how is it different from what you expected?

JN: Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that I wanted to be in higher ed — preferably public higher ed — because I know the impact that higher ed has on students and on communities, and you can see it so immediately and effectively. That was my experience as governor of Arizona. But honestly, I had little understanding or appreciation of the size and complexity of the University of California.

And I’ll say that I’ve managed state budgets, the DHS budget, but I’ve never managed a budget as complicated as the University of California’s. And that’s because it is a complex institution. We have something like 300 different funding streams that come into the president’s office, by way of example. It’s complicated and it’s huge, the breadth and depth and scale of the place.

The budget of the University of California is more than three times what the budget of Arizona was when I left as governor — the state budget. I think if the UC were a state in terms of the size of its budget, it’d be in the top 20. So you have all of the challenges and opportunities associated with running a place that’s big and complicated and has a huge impact on lots of people. I enjoy those kinds of challenges. I am totally and completely challenged.

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  • Emilia M.

    Janet Napolitano, a Bill Clinton acolyte. Not a hypocrite, no, not at all….nothing to see here……